I was doing another round of oral history interviews for the historical society. A local World War Two veteran, a Silver Star recipient, had recently died and the Director wanted to interview anyone we could find who had known him.
I interviewed the veteran’s widow. She was eighty-five and we recorded the interview in her home at the kitchen table. The Director made it seem to her that the interview was a great honor, and she knew her late husband had liked the Director, so she did the interview although she was uncomfortable with it.
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” she said several times. She fidgeted constantly, smoothing the skirt over her knees.
I asked all the usual questions, about life during the war and how she raised the children and the letters she wrote to her husband overseas. She talked a little about the war, about buying war bonds and how the rationing stamps worked, but none of it was new. She spoke only vaguely about making meals, washing clothes, shopping for Christmas. I was trying to get her own story, her own opinions, herself, but there didn’t really seem to be anyone in there. After a while I decided to spare her further discomfort.
“Well,” I said, “is there anything more you’d like to say about your life?”
She stared silently out the kitchen window to the green lawn and the white picket fence and empty clothes lines under the blue sky and stopped fidgeting. There was a note of confusion in her voice when she finally spoke.
“It was nice,” she said. “It was real nice.”
David Bassano is a History professor at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. He is a human rights activist, an author of academic and literary works, and an avid hiker and cyclist. Trevelyan’s Wager, published by Harvard Square Editions, is his first novel. You may learn more about him and his work at: https://www.facebook.com/davidbassanoauthor/